Art of thinking

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How Successful Plastic Surgeons Think

While consulting with plastic surgeons since Year 2000 and interviewing them on my Beauty and the Biz Podcast, I have found the most successful plastic surgeons think differently. And the good news is, it can be learned. 

Good thinking is a skill worth practicing. It can generate revenues, solve problems, and create opportunities. It really can change your life.

However, it’s different thinking than the kind you did to become a surgeon. Your training was based on science and specific techniques taught by others before you. This structured thinking was crucial to you becoming a great surgeon, but not so good to become a successful businessperson. 

You need to think differently when you run a practice, lead a team, manage the business and compete in a crowded industry. But, have you heard the saying, “Thinking is hard work; that’s why do few do it.” 

When you take the time to become a better thinker, you are investing in yourself. So, here are 11 strategies to help:

1. Feed Your Mind with Good Stuff

Good ideas don’t typically just happen. You search for them to get the mind juices flowing. You  find good ideas by reading books, reviewing trade magazines, listening to podcasts like this one and spending time with other good thinkers to expose yourself to thoughts you hadn’t thought before.

But Ideas come and go quickly so you’ll want to jot them down immediately. Keep paper and pen handy or add ideas that come up to your iphone notes. 

I personally get lots of ideas when walking my dog and listening to podcasts, so I text them to myself and then transfer them to my file of ideas that I refer to often.

2. Schedule It

Life will keep you focused on the busyness of your day so there’s no time to stop and think unless you make the time. 

So, block the time on your calendar just like you do for new patient consultations. That’s how important this is. This can be 1 hour per week, 1 day per month or a couple of days per year. Grab a pen and paper, find a quiet place with no distractions and ask yourself good questions to get the ideas flowing. For example:

  • How can I increase my revenues without working harder?
  • How can I enjoy managing staff and building a more productive culture?
  • What skills could I learn to help me grow my practice? 
habits of successful plastic surgeons

3. Find Your Thinking Place

Everyone is different so notice where you are and what you are doing when the best ideas come to you. It can be in the shower, the car, the park, while you’re jogging, flying, cooking, falling asleep, etc.

Now, just go to these thinking places more often and your mind will condition itself to think of more ideas more often. It’s that simple.

4. Journal for More Clarity

If you find it challenging to sit quietly and wait for thoughts to come to you, here’s a strategy I have used for years….

I have a folder on my desktop called NOTES for each year. I ask myself a question, set the timer for 10-20 minutes and then I just type (I type faster than I handwrite so this works better for me). At first, I’m just babbling but then my brain starts focusing and opening up and the babble turns into thoughts and some of those thoughts turn into an idea. 

Most just clear my mind so I feel better getting certain thoughts off my chest, but I have gotten some of my best ideas that have grown legs and made me money so you might want to give this a try. 

5. Share!

If your idea affects anyone else, think it through before sharing. Ask yourself if you believe it has merit and you have confidence in it making a difference.  If so, present it to others to get their insights and feedback. Sometimes, when said out loud and discussed, you realize it’s not that great after all. But other times, the feedback you get back grows the idea to something worth pursuing and getting excited about.

successful plastic surgeons think

6. Take Action Immediately

A thought is just a thought until it’s executed. Ideas come and go quickly so if you have a good one, immediately act on it to keep it alive and well. For example, you think of a good idea from pondering the questions above and that is to hire a patient liaison whose primary job is to follow up on the leads coming in. So the next step is to have your office manager write and place an ad for this patient liaison. If you need help with that, you can get all the details about how to hire from visiting

In the Vault, I lay out exactly how you find the right person, how you train and motivate them and how you hold them accountable. Just saying…

7. Thinking is a Learned Skill

Becoming a good thinker is a discipline that you get good at by practicing. Open your mind. Be curious. Ask why and how a whole lot more often, such as:

  • Why do we do this?
  • How could we do it better?
  • Could we do something else instead that is faster, cheaper and/or more effective?

8. Think Big Picture

It’s so easy to get caught up in the minute details vs. the overall bigger picture. An example would be you reminding the staff regularly that customer service is more important than double booking and making patients wait. Instead, you figure out HOW to avoid no-shows in the first place. For example, you can charge a consult fee, or at least reserve their time with a credit card while booking, text multiple appointment reminders and so on.

9. Always be Learning

Good-thinking surgeons stay open to learning and growing for a lifetime. Even though they spent many years learning to be a surgeon, they realize there’s more to it.  They now learn to be a good leader, manager, and marketer to stay competitive. 

how successful plastic surgeons think

10. Listen to the Experts

You can get a readers-digest shortcut education just by listening to others who have been there and done that. The specialized experts have already done the heavy thinking on a certain topic so you don’t have to. 

For example, you can spend 40 hours on the weekends learning the latest marketing hacks or you can pay an expert in plastic surgeon marketing to customize a proven marketing plan for you. 

For example, if your time is worth $1K/hour and the consultant charges $10K, that’s a savings of $30K AND you’ll have an actionable plan to execute! Doesn’t that make more sense?

11. Think Big

This is different than thinking big picture. This is more like 10X your efforts and results. To make that happen, you would have to think about HOW could you do that. It will expand your mind and your thinking. 

For example, if you currently bring in $1M, thinking big has you asking yourself “HOW could I bring in $10M?” Whenever you ask your brain a question, it has to give you back an answer so listen and take notes when the ideas come such as raising your prices, bringing on more service providers who have big followings, and training other surgeons on your innovative techniques to name a few. 

So, to wrap this up, I wanted to leave you with a few quotes to bring the point home:

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Everything begins with a thought”.

John Locke said “What we think determines who we are. Who we are determines what we do.”

And James Allen said  “Our thoughts determine our destiny. Our destiny determines our legacy.”

My own advice that I learned from Wayne Dyer the spiritual guru is, “if you change the way you think about things, The things you think about change.”

So true…

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to Beauty and the Biz and check out the for all you need to know about the business and marketing of running a successful plastic surgery practice.

And, if you have questions or feedback on how to become one of the more successful plastic surgeons please visit or my Instagram @CatherineMaleyMBA.

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A Complete Guide to Understanding Your Aesthetic Patient and Growing Your Aesthetic Practice. Catherine Maley, MBA went straight to the aesthetic patient to get the answers you need to succeed with your patients.



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